Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Do You Read Books?

Diana commented on my last blog: "Does it ever get tiresome reading books that are about something? Have you ever tried reading a book to just escape?"

Good question. Makes me think.

I think of most book readers as becoming so when they're children. I also suspect they read a great deal in genre or commercial literature, and that they read quickly. I have a niece who can go through a Twilight book in a couple of days, another friend who reads books in one sitting. These are the people who I think of as the book readers of the world, the ones who keep traditional publishing alive.

I'm happy they're around.

I didn't get hooked on reading until I was 18 and in an English class at junior college. In this class we read books like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 1984, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and A Clockwork Orange. Each book seemed to offer some different perspective on life, a perspective I couldn't expect to glean from any television show or movie or album. Novel reading is direct communication from one person (writer) to another (reader), and the genre struck me as more unique and radical than other media, in the way individuals can be more unique and radical than groups of folks.

As I've read diligently and widely over the last 20 years, I've also grown to love the use of the English language. I get a charge out of--if not profoundly new ways of thinking--new and beautiful ways to say old things. Last night, here's what jumped out at me in Finding Time Again:

"The only true paradise is the paradise we have lost."

Proust does lay down the law.

Basically, a book--if I'm going to like it--has to offer, for lack of a better phrase, insight into life. I need to be entertained by it, sure, but it needs to go beyond that. Does it offer a new perspective? Is it using language in a way that is making me see something in a way I've never seen it before? When I find a book that does this, I find my release, my escape.

So, to answer Diana's question, I guess I never get tired of reading books that are about something. And reading books that are about something is exactly where I find my escape.

Oh, yeah. And I escape into crazy shit like this, too.

So, enough about me. Tell me why you read books? I'd really like to know.

Yours in laying down the blog,


Buy Ghost Notes

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Buy Stuck Outside of Phoenix


K said...

The answer to that question takes many forms for me. I just love the written word! Like you, I read as I'm fascinated by the English language. How many ways something can be written and how many different interpretations can be made from the same subject. I read for escape, as Diana mentioned. But, mostly I read to get insight into what makes other authors work. What makes their stories work. I'm always amazed at how clever authors can be and how well they hold the reader. If there's one thing I have learned from reading, it's that we never stop learning :-)

Art Edwards said...

With all of the other distractions at our disposal, it is amazing when someone can keep up stimulated with nothing but the English language. That's quite a trick, in 2009 especially, but it's always been tough.


Erin said...

There is no particular reason why I's just always been my thing. Words. Words are great.

If I'm going ot go the "escapism through reading" route, I go with John Irving or Tom Robbins. This comment should probably have been with my comment in the last blog haha But seriously..."Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" by Tom Robbins...literally made me laugh out loud throughout.

Art Edwards said...

There are about 17 people in the universe who can make us belly laugh with little chicken scratches on paper. That's how rare that talent is.

And if anybody wants a taste of where reading can get you, listen to our president speak.

Diana said...

so, I get your point, reading books that are "mainstream" is like listening to music that's "mainstream" but I feel you may have misinterpreted my initial comment. I too am a lover of the written word. I married a English major who graduated from the University of Michigan who excels in the written word. My thought was, have you ever just wanted to escape reality and read something that while still literary and meaningful, not really about anything important? Take Ayn Rand's Fountainhead. Not really about anything (unless you consider your ego everything), yet lets you escape. but then again, who am I other then a literary mainstream junkie. (of course you have to know I utterly respect your thoughts and of course, words)

Art Edwards said...

At some point I have to try Rand. It doesn't strike me as escape reading. Maybe it's the thickness...

I'm actually quite a slow reader, so if anything I've written sounds like I'm dumping on mainstream literary, it's probably just my jealousy of people who can read faster than I can. I don't wish people read like me.

I do hope they read.